Male Infertility: What we can learn from Abraham & Isaac
When we consider how men can respond to infertility (male factor, female factor, or unexplained), I think we can look to the scriptures and learn some powerful lessons from Abraham and Isaac, a father and son who both endured years of being barren.
Let’s first consider the story of Abraham. We know that Abraham was promised “that he might become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). I can imagine that this promise, while somewhat overwhelming, was something Abraham looked forward to, felt honored to be his, and held onto with hope in the face of adversity. Over time, Abraham and Sarah recognized that months were turning into decades and they were still without any indication that this promise of seed was actually going to be fulfilled. Clearly, there was something wrong. Do you think Abraham ever said “This barren wife of mine is dragging me down and keeping me from these blessings?” Or, do you suppose he ever had the thought “My wife is so emotional. Why can’t she get control of her feelings? Why do we have to go through this whole saga of disappointment every month?” Of course the scriptures do not contain every detail of the situation, but what they do contain shows that this husband and wife were unified—unified in their sorrow and unified in their rejoicing when, in their old age, they found out they had conceived. We do not see Abraham abandoning Sarah and leaving her alone in her sorrow. He endured with her. He was sorrowful that the promise of seed was not being realized. In the face of great adversity, Abraham “staggered (Greek for doubted, hesitated) not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham exercised remarkable faith, had abiding hope, and remained faithful to the Lord.
Regardless of if your infertility is male factor, female factor, a combination, or unexplained, every husband can be just like Abraham. You can give all your energy to your wife by supporting her, being by her side, and being equally committed to the quest for posterity. Pledge that even in the face of the greatest sorrow, you will be ever present with her, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. And, despite the challenges and disappointments you face, prove yourself faithful to the Lord through this adversity. Trust in Him. Rely on Him. Know that He is very much aware of you and wants you to find happiness. The promise and hope of posterity did not end with Abraham. It has, in fact, carried on throughout the generations. You, too, can hold on to the promise of being blessed with eternal increase and being a father of many nations (see D&C 132:30-31). Do not be staggered, but filled with hope and faith.
Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, was chosen for him by his father’s servant. This arranged marriage was a great success because Isaac truly loved Rebekah. There was sorrow to be had, however, when Rebekah found that she was barren and remained barren for twenty years. The scriptures tell us that Isaac “intreated the Lord for his wife” (Genesis 25:21). I love that image! When I think of infertility, I think of a woman on bended knee pleading with all her energy to grant her greatest desire for children. But, in this case, we see a man making a deeply sincere and determined request of the Lord. He petitioned the Lord in behalf of his wife, and I believe, for himself. He then trusted that the Lord would grant his desire. In a time of sadness for this biblical couple, Isaac recognized something he could do to improve the situation. He knew of his wife’s disappointment and her longing. I imagine that as he witnessed her sadness time after time, he felt he alone could not fulfill Rebekah’s desire to be a mother. With certainty, he knew that if he sought the Lord’s help, joy was possible for them.
As you intreat the Lord for you and your wife, you may or may not see the fruit that Isaac saw. Regardless, you will see your life filled with strength and greater capacity. You will find that your love and devotion for your wife will be enlarged, you will recognize tangible ways you can improve your circumstances, and you will also find an increased ability to cope and endure.
I wish the Lord’s choicest blessings upon you as you move forward diligently, making sense of what you are feeling and as you try to be united with your wife in this trial. This challenge is one that we, as husbands and wives, can overcome together, especially as we rely on the help of our Heavenly Father. Through Christ, we can receive strength where we feel so inadequate and disappointed. Additionally, we know that because of Him, all things will be made right and we will receive all the blessings Heavenly Father has promised us.
Adapted from Infertility: Help, Hope, and Healing.
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